Support for ACOA still strong, minister says

Rob Antle
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Politics Federal agency maintaining funding level: Ashfield

The minister in charge of the Atlantic Canada Opportunites Agency (ACOA) is pledging the Harper administration's continued support for the federal organization.

Keith Ashfield says there is currently an "equivalent" level of funding for the agency compared to years past.

He noted some programs with sunset clauses have been moved to the agency's main budget.

That, he said, means there are no fears about them not being renewed.

Keith Ashfield

The minister in charge of the Atlantic Canada Opportunites Agency (ACOA) is pledging the Harper administration's continued support for the federal organization.

Keith Ashfield says there is currently an "equivalent" level of funding for the agency compared to years past.

He noted some programs with sunset clauses have been moved to the agency's main budget.

That, he said, means there are no fears about them not being renewed.

"We don't have to worry about sunsetting any more," the minister said. "We don't have to worry about going back to cabinet for approvals to those moneys."

Two of those pots of federal cash - the Innovative Community Fund and Atlantic Innovation Fund - were scheduled to end in March.

But he said they are now funded as part of ACOA's regular budget.

Ashfield said it's vital that current ACOA funding levels have stayed steady, as efforts to battle a swollen federal budget deficit loom on the horizon.

"Because of the restraints that we're going to have to be going into over the course of the next few years to balance our budget, it's really important that we at least maintain the funding that we had," Ashfield said.

The feds are in the second, and final, year of stimulus spending, with belt-tightening expected to follow.

"We'll be going into a restraint mode after this current year to bring ourselves back to balanced budgets, but in terms of the moneys being spent, it's well spent through ACOA - our due diligence is pretty tight," the minister said.

When he was leader of the Canadian Alliance, Prime Minister Stephen Harper criticized ACOA, saying he would cut it "dramatically and very rapidly."

But Harper changed his tune during the 2006 election campaign, saying he supports the agency's work.

The Conservatives have since taken great pains to stress that they have maintained funding levels for ACOA since taking power four years ago.

Ashfield said the Harper government is committed to regional development agencies.

In fact, the Tory administration has actually created new ones, including an agency for southern Ontario.

"Atlantic-Canadians can rest assured that ACOA is going to be around for a while," Ashfield said.

"The prime minister has taken a direct interest in these agencies and realizes the value of them."

rantle@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Atlantic Canada Opportunites Agency, Federal agency, Innovative Community Fund Atlantic Innovation Fund Canadian Alliance

Geographic location: Southern Ontario

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  • Rick
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    The prime minister has taken a direct interest in these agencies and realizes the value of them. and .....ACOA is going to be around for a while.

    Read between the lines Mr. Ashfield, better yet, explain to your reading audience that Mr. Harper always takes a direct interest in anything that garners votes, especially now that he has shut his party out of its share of 75 Quebec seats.

    At this time NL's 7 seats are of the utmost importance to the Con party; why else an investment of $1.8 million in the Roddickton pellet plant. That should garner Con votes in time for the next election. Consider it a donation as the N. American and EU markets are flush with pellet plant competition. Like pulp and paper donations by the NL government, another delay of the inevitable in today's marketplace.

    In short, would you buy a used car from the Con government?

  • Rick
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    The prime minister has taken a direct interest in these agencies and realizes the value of them. and .....ACOA is going to be around for a while.

    Read between the lines Mr. Ashfield, better yet, explain to your reading audience that Mr. Harper always takes a direct interest in anything that garners votes, especially now that he has shut his party out of its share of 75 Quebec seats.

    At this time NL's 7 seats are of the utmost importance to the Con party; why else an investment of $1.8 million in the Roddickton pellet plant. That should garner Con votes in time for the next election. Consider it a donation as the N. American and EU markets are flush with pellet plant competition. Like pulp and paper donations by the NL government, another delay of the inevitable in today's marketplace.

    In short, would you buy a used car from the Con government?